The Luminous Time Machine

2014-12-04 10.26.32The National Museum of Singapore


This antique camera was manufactured by Graflex Inc, Rochester, 8, New York USA.   The “Speed Graphic” was bought by Sean Yeo about two years ago on eBay.


I attended “A Lighter Side of History” session on 29 November, 2014 at 2:00 pm at Seminar Room, Level 2, National Museum of Singapore.

The Luminous Time Machine:  Appreciating photographs of a bygone era.

Calling all enthusiasts of photography and storytelling – this is your chance to take a trip back to the past and learn about the theory and methodology of photography in the yesteryear.

Witness a live demonstration of the wet plate collodion process – a traditional photographic process invented more than 150 years ago.  Get introduced to the basic process, feel and touch the camera and equipment used, sit for a group portrait and then observe the magical process of developing the image.

new_PicsArt_1417408554088Prominent direction signage at the museum

new_PicsArt_1417408373376Yen Lin’s presentation with informative slides


Mark Lim and Sean Yeo at another end of the Seminar Room for demonstration of the Wet-Plate Collodion Process.


An introduction by Mark Lim and another outdoor demo group at the museum


new_PicsArt_1417407729174The young couple volunteered at the seminar to pose for the camera

Frederick Scott Archer, an English sculptor, introduced the wet collodion process for making glass negatives in 1851. It was 20 times faster than previous methods and paper prints could be made from the glass plates, allowing for many copies to be made from one original. The drawback: the photographer had to sensitize the plate, expose and develop before the plate dried.

This means photographers had to carry all of the chemicals, the glass plates and a darkroom with them where ever they were photographing. Not exactly the easiest task. The introduction of the gelatin dry plate in the 1870s put an end to the wet plate as the process of choice for working photographers. However, today, this process is seeing a huge resurgence in use.

Collodion wet plate photography is an extensive process where a glass plate is prepared with several chemical solutions, transferred to a camera to expose, and then developed quickly all before it dries. This technique was used in the early 19th century to produce exquisite black and white photos with incredible detail.   It is a very inconvenient form which required the photographic material to be coated, sensitized, exposed and developed within the span of about fifteen minutes, necessitating a portable darkroom for use in the field.

Wet Plate Collodion in the Digital Age

In this digital age of blazing fast cameras and instant photography, why would anyone want to take the longest route possible to take a photograph? Lets explore this 150-year-old process and unveil the magic of this beautiful and mysterious photographic technique.

Adventures in Wet Plate Collodion Process here .

Through the history of photography and leading up to the wet plate era, see why wet plate collodion became such an important photographic process. Take a step-by-step look into the technique and art of wet plate collodion, using antique brass lenses, and the benefits it holds over any other modern process.

new_PicsArt_1417407212113Sean Yeo with the processed wet plate to demonstrate

new_PicsArt_1417407176648The Wet Plate Collodion Demo Kit


The procesed wet plate with the result at the demo.


Sean Yeo at the Question & Answer Session after his demonstration.


Yen Lin graciously posed for the photo with the presentation slide displayed.